Honoring a Legacy: MPA Program Seeks Accreditation

spring 2011 focus      From Focus magazine, Spring 2011 >>


By Greg Muraski

 Columbus State's fastest-growing graduate degree may have lost 0its founder, but the Master of Public Administration Program stands poised on the cusp of international accreditation, thanks to the late Bill Chappell.

Chappell, 62, died Jan. 7 from a heart attack while battling cancer, living long enough to see graduation and enrollment totals jump significantly as the program served more disciplines.

Dr. Kimberly Gill"Dr. Chappell led the program to be well-positioned for (the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration) evaluators," said political science professor Kimberly Gill, left, Chappell's successor as acting director of the MPA program. Factors in recent progress include:

• A Fort Benning-oriented recruitment initiative.

• Recent addition of an MPA track in environmental policy studies, joining government administration, justice administration and health services administration tracks.

• Development of several online MPA Program courses, including an option to complete the government administration track entirely online.

The new track prepares students to manage environmental issues from positions in local, state and federal agencies, as well as nonprofits and private businesses.

"This is a great opportunity to enhance awareness about the impact environmental issues have on our daily lives," said global environmental policy scholar Fred Gordon, who joined the faculty last fall.

Greg Domin, former chair of the Department of Political Science and MPA Program, now interim associate provost, said the new degree track is especially timely. "Environmentalism and terms such as 'not in my backyard' related to waste disposal are increasingly relevant to political science and policy experts," he said.

The environmental admin-istration track is expected to gradually impact MPA enroll- ment – now at a near-record

high of 358 and well above the low of 173 in 1998-1999. Historically, justice administration has been the most popular track, with hundreds of police officers achieving a master's through the program's Georgia Law Enforcement Command College.Shon Ingram

Shon Ingram, left, launched a consulting practice upon completing his health services administration MPA in 2005.

"It was always my goal to run my own business, Ingram and the tools I developed in the program really helped me build a quality geriatric care management firm," said Ingram, a former hospital and nursing home administrator.

Ingram's MPA-fed savvy helped him identify Knoxville, Tenn., as the base of an underserved market for what became his Eldercare Life Solutions.

As a full-time professional with a young family, CSU obliged Ingram's focused commitment. "I approached each class as a business seminar, more so than an academic venture," he said. "The whole experience was eye opening, providing a window into the real workings of health care, business and the public sector."

As High Point University's senior director of University Advancement, CSSU alum Bill Doerr speaks to a gathering of HPU graduates during a spring 2010 luncheon. He's now at GCSU.Another graduate said he appreciated the way the MPA program understood the demands on full-time, working students. "Folks like Dr. Chappell went out of their way to make sure I had every opportunity to complete my degree on time," said Bill Doerr, right, who got his government administration MPA in 2004.

Recently appointed associate vice president of development and alumni relations for Georgia College and State University, Doerr said the knowledge gained by earning the MPA also yielded credibility with colleagues. "The coursework was broad enough to allow me to translate the concepts presented in class to my career but went far enough in-depth to learn valuable skills such as budgeting and personnel development for a large organization."

Local district attorney's office investigator Chris Samra, who earned a justice administration MPA in 2008, credits his degree with providing him cutting-edge insight contributing to arrests in high-profile local crimes.

"My CSU education has equipped me to 'think outside the box' and contribute new ideas and theories," said Samra, who also earned an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from CSU. "For example, I was able to help my senior co-investigators comprehend and apply a homicide suspect analysis by a leading forensic psychologist we had brought in for a recent case. (The psychologist) was speaking in the framework of theories I had just learned in school."

Samra, who now teaches online criminal justice courses as a CSU adjunct professor, is "dedicated to his work," said one of his mentors, Michael Bailey, now CSU's interim criminal justice department chair.

A 1996 MPA graduate and former Muscogee County deputy sheriff, Bailey followed a traditional route to his degree. But many local, state and federal law enforcement colleagues have gotten their MPAs through the Command College, organized in 1995 through a CSU-Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police partnership.

In a similar effort, CSU is adapting its MPA government administration track to Fort Benning's Maneuver Captains Career Course and its 250 enrollees." Outreach to Fort Benning represents another move to diversify the MPA student body," said Gill. "We've tailored electives and transferable electives to the captain's course, and the online option makes it possible to complete the program regardless of duty reassignment."

Domin, who oversees CSU's Graduate School, believes the move stands to give the MPA, as well as other graduate programs with online options, "a prominent foothold in Fort Benning for the first time."

The military outreach also represents the latest piece to a program soon to be evaluated by NASPAA. Gill and her faculty colleagues are preparing a self-study to be presented to NASPAA in August, followed by a fall site visit from association officials.

Political Science and MPA Program Interim Chair Tom Dolan said the accreditation process is providing an outside perspective of program strengths and areas for adjustments. "Accreditation also will enhance both job placement prospects for our graduates and our ability to attract quality students," he said.

Gill said the memory of Chappell has strengthened faculty resolve to complete the process. "Accreditation was Dr. Chappell's dream," she said. "I want to help see it through."

Scholarship Honors MPA Program Founder

Bill Chappell's work continues through the careers of more than 1,500 who earned the Master of Public Administration under his watch.Dr. Bill Chappell

Now, those degree recipients, including many of Georgia's civic and law enforcement leaders, are giving back through the new Bill Chappell Memorial Scholarship fund. The new fund will assist MPA students with tuition and book costs.

"Twenty-five percent of immediate proceeds will help deserving students complete their MPA degrees, while the remaining funds will be used to endow the scholarship," said Tom Hackett, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Our goal is to raise $50,000."

Send checks specifying the fund to: CSU Foundation, 4225 University Ave., Columbus, Ga. 31907-5645 To donate online by credit card, visit http://www.ColumbusState.edu/giving, click on the Give Now button, follow the instructions and specify the scholarship fund. Credit card donations may also be made by calling 706-568-2028.

Remembering Bill Chappell (above)

Bill Chappell joined Columbus College's political science faculty in 1976, after a stint as a signal officer in Vietnam. Among memories of his 35-year tenure:

  • Tim Mescon, CSU president: "Twenty-eight years ago, Bill helped create the MPA program," subsequently impacting public policymaking – "not just in Georgia but around this country."
  • Tom Hackett, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs: (whose father, English professor Paul Hackett, also was a colleague to Chappell): "The MPA, now the largest graduate program on campus, is one of his many legacies. He laid the foundation for all graduate programs to follow."Cynthia Wright
  • Kimberly Gill, Acting MPA Program director: "The students in the (MPA) program were his passion. He always put them first."
  • Cynthia Wright, right, 2009 MPA graduate: "Dr. Chappell's guidance gave me confidence and made me realize I could broaden my horizons with determination and hard work."
  • Tim Chitwood, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer columnist: "(Chappell) was an inveterate storyteller who once told a friend he was in the wrong profession in the wrong era: He should have been a traveling raconteur of the Middle Ages, compensated with food, drink and lodging for entertaining villagers with his tales."
  • Delane Chappell, his widow: "CSU kept him going during his times of illness. He loved this place with a passion."

Captions: (top to bottom)

  • Spring 2011 Focus
  • Kimberly Gill
  • Shon Ingram
  • As High Point University's senior director of University Advancement, CSSU alum Bill Doerr speaks to a gathering of HPU graduates during a spring 2010 luncheon. He's now at GCSU.
  • Bill Chappell
  • Cynthia Wright